Reactions From LA's James Beard Award Semifinalists

By Lesley Balla  |  February 19, 2014
Credit: Team Corazon y Meil

Today the James Beard Foundation announced the award semifinalists for 2014 and LA has made quite an impact. In addition to perennial nominees like Nancy Silverton, Suzanne Goin and Melisse, a new wave of chefs and restaurateurs have made the long list for Rising Star Chef, Best Chef: West and Best New Restaurant.

Among the more notable newbies: Josef Centeno, who's grown a mini empire in Downtown LA, is nominated for Best Chef: West; Jon Shook, Vinny Dotolo and Ludovic Lefebvre are all nominated for Best Chef: West and their restaurant, Trois Mec, is up for Best New Restaurant; and Eduardo Ruiz, whose Corazon y Miel in Bell is one of the best reasons to fight traffic on the 10 Freeway, is recognized as a Rising Star Chef nominee. The list will be narrowed down to finalists by March and the awards will be handed out in May. This morning, we checked in with some of the nominees to get their reactions to the news. (Look for a list of all the local nominees after the quotes.)

Niki Nakayama, the only woman nominee in this year's Best Chef of the West category, is very honored. "I was out in the garden gathering today's vegetables, when my partner/sous chef Carole came out excitedly to tell me that she'd just received a text from Katie saying that I'd made semi-finalist. My first reaction was, 'Are you serious?!' It's always been a dream to reach great places with the work that we do at N/Naka and having made the list itself is a personal milestone as well as it being one of the best moments as a chef."

Rising Star Chef nom Ari Taymor of Alma said, "I am humbled and honored, the James Beard Foundation is such a legendary institution. It's so amazing to see my name next to people I look up to and respect so much. I owe everything to [co-owner] Ashleigh [Parsons] and our team who work so hard." 

Jon Shook said, "I am with Vinny right now and we just talked to Ludo on the phone. It is a great honor for all of us to be part of a list of some of the best chefs and restaurants in country. We all are pulling for any one of the local nominees to win and bring back a couple James Beard awards to LA this year."

Ludo Lefebvre added, "It is such an amazing honor to be nominated on the JBF semifinalist list. Trois Mec is my dream restaurant and to get the recognition we have gotten is just unreal. This has been the best year of my life in culinary. It is truly an honor to be a semi-finalist with so many other talented chefs, but what really makes it special is that my partners Jon and Vinny are also semi-finalists, I am so grateful for their support."

Rivera's patriarch, John Sedlar, nominated for Best Chef: West, said, "It's great that The James Beard Foundation is finally recognizing that the Latin and Mexican kitchens are shoulder to shoulder with the other great kitchens of the world such as the Chinese and French kitchen. This shows that the public is now open to the fresh, spicy flavors of this naturally healthy and tasty food."

Julian Cox, whose creative cocktails at Rivera garnered a Best Bar Program nod, added, "It's been an honor to work with John Sedlar; his work and creativity and process are inspiration for what we have been doing behind the bar for the last 5 years. I am so proud of the legions of Rivera alumni who are surely bringing a high standard and enthusiastic hospitality to bars and restaurants across the city and beyond."

David LeFevre, nominated for Best Chef: West said, "I'm so fortunate to live and work in such a wonderful town like Manhattan Beach and it is wonderful for our team to be recognized like this. I can't wait for our Beard Dinner on March 5th!"

And Eduardo Ruiz was caught completely off guard: "I actually did not know that I had been nominated until I read it in a tweet from Jonathan Gold this morning (while I was driving back from the market!) I am so humbled. This is such an amazing honor. It makes working hard with my team worth continuing and it makes our upcoming projects all the more exciting."

Best New Restaurant
Chi Spacca
Connie and Ted’s
Trois Mec

Outstanding Bar Program
The Varnish

Outstanding Chef
Suzanne Goin, A.O.C., Lucques, Tavern
Nancy Silverton, Pizzeria Mozza, Osteria Mozza

Outstanding Pastry Chef
Dahlia Navarez, the Mozzas and Chi Spacca

Outstanding Restaurant

Outstanding Restaurateur
Caroline Styne, A.O.C., Lucques, Tavern

Outstanding Service

Outstanding Wine Service

Rising Star Chef
Casey Lane, Tasting Kitchen
Ari Taymor, Alma
Eduardo Ruiz, Corazon y Miel

Best Chef: West
Josef Centeno, Baco Mercat, Bar Ama, Orsa & Winston
Michael Cimarusti, Providence, Connie & Ted's
Ludo Lefebvre, Trois Mec
David LeFevre, MB Post, Fishing With Dynamite
Niki Nakayama, N/Naka
Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, Animal, Son of a Gun, Trois Mec
John Sedlar, Rivera
Ricardo Zarate, Picca, Mo-Chica, Paiche

Pictured in photo, from left to right: Corazon y Miel's Robin Chopra, chef de cuisine Travis Hoffacker and executive chef Eduardo Ruiz